SUICIDE SQUAD

cideWrittena and directed by David Ayer. Starring Will Smith, Margot Robbie, Viola Davis, Joel Kinnaman, Cara Delevingne, Jai Courtney, Jay Hernandez, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Ben Affleck and Jared Leto. 

Suicide Squad is not a film in releasable condition. There are no “scenes” to speak of, nothing resembling a coherent beginning or an end. The tone staggers and veers all over the place. Everything is arbitrary, nothing happens organically. Plot details appear to be arranged out of order, supposedly important story threads come out of nowhere and then dropped just as abruptly. Characters are introduced to us several times over. At times I felt like I was watching several completely different movies, and I didn’t like any of them. Continue reading

THE BFG

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Directed by Steven Spielberg. Screenplay by Melissa Mathison. Starring Ruby Barnhill, Mark Rylance, Penelope Wilton, Rebecca Hall, Jermaine Clement, Rafe Spall and Bill Hader.

Maybe it’s the awkward title, but the consensus behind Steven Spielberg’s adaptation of Roald Dahl’s beloved bedtime story seems to be that the filmmaker is somehow losing his touch. The film was a critical and box-office rejection in the United States, and the same shruggy reviews seem to be cropping up over here, with rounds of dismissal like “autopilot” and “minor Spielberg” that remind me of Roger Ebert’s line about how quickly we grow accustomed to wonders. Continue reading

THE WITCH

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Written and directed by Robert Eggers. Starring Anya Taylor-Joy, Ralph Ineson, Kate Dickie, Harvey Scrimshaw, Ellie Grainger and Lucas Dawson.

Being horrified is not the same as being scared. The horror discussion hasn’t been particularly well-served lately by a lot of dudes online who would rather hold bragging contests about what is or isn’t “scary” than own up to any emotional responsibility about what they watch. So in the spirit of the praise and acclaim that has been greeting Robert Eggers’ debut feature ever since it first premiered at Sundance, let me join in with the critical hosannas for a second and say that The Witch is indeed horrifying, if that’s your bag. Continue reading

DEMOLITION

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Directed by Jean-Marc Vallée. Screenplay by Bryan Sipe. Starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Naomi Watts, Chris Cooper, Judah Lewis and Heather Lind. 

After sitting through some of Jake Gyllenhaal’s recent performances, it’s nice to see him not trying too hard this time. Gyllenhaal certainly has been doing a lot of acting lately: growing out intense beards, gaining and losing weight, distorting his blandly handsome visage into all manner of contortions and screaming bug-eyed into the camera. Judging by some truly daft turns in films such as Prisoners, Nightcrawler and Southpaw, he’s apparently decided to reinvent his career by playing aliens.

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A BIGGER SPLASH

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Directed by Luca Guadagnino. Screenplay by David Kajganich. Starring Ralph Fiennes, Tilda Swinton, Matthias Schoenaerts and Dakota Johnson. 

The swimming pool’s the stage for a hotbed of buried jealousy and psychosexual dynamics in Italian director Luca Guadagnino’s A Bigger Splash, which adapts Jacques Deray’s 1969 La Piscine into something a lot more satisfying than what the French press are already calling a “loose remake”. The premise is the same in both: watch four attractive, filthy-rich people laze around a glamorous villa in the heat of summertime as they stir up roiling erotic tensions, frequently get naked and slowly destroy each other. Continue reading

THE ASSASSIN

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Directed by Hou Hsiao-Hsien. Screenplay by Hou Hsiao-HsienChu Tienwen, Hsieh HaiMen and Zhong AchengStarring Shu QiChang ChenZhou Yun and Satoshi Tsumabuki.

Feeling a lot more “foreign” than most foreign movies do, The Assassin is Hou Hsiao-Hsien’s first movie in eight years, winning Best Director at the 2015 Cannes Film Festival and sees this legendary Taiwanese filmmaker take his first stab at the wuxia martial-arts picture. But anyone expecting the kind of high-kicking wirework and dizzying flights of fancy seen in arthouse smashes like House of Flying Daggers or Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon is sure to be left disappointed. The Assassin is those movies slowed to a crawl, where everything is peripheral and nothing is foregrounded for the audience’s benefit. Sometimes, you feel like you’re watching it from another room. Funny thing is, that seems to be the entire point.

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ANOMALISA

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Directed by Charlie Kaufman and Duke Johnson. Screenplay by Charlie Kaufman. Starring the voices of David Thewlis, Jennifer Jason Leigh and Tom Noonan.

I guess it was only a matter of time before the writer of Being John Malkovich would end up making a movie where everyone was played by puppets.

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THE 5TH WAVE

Chlo? Grace Moretz stars in Columbia Pictures' "The 5th Wave."

Directed by Jonathan “J” Blakeson. Screenplay by Susannah Grant, Akiva Goldsman and Jeff Pinkner. Starring Chloë Grace Moretz, Nick Robinson, Ron Livingston, Maggie Siff, Alex Roe, Maika Monroe, Maria Bello and Liev Schreiber.

It’s the end of the world as we know it again, so that must mean it’s time for another Young Adult movie. Continue reading

EXPERIMENTER

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Written and directed by Michael Almereyda. Starring Peter Sarsgaard, Winona Ryder, Jim Gaffigan, Taryn Manning, Kellan Lutz, Dennis Haysbert, Anton Yelchin, Lori Singer and John Leguizamo.

So dense it’s hard to take it all in on a single viewing, Michael Almereyda’s Experimenter is a devilishly entertaining portrait of (in)famous social psychologist Stanley Milgram, swimming in teasing, playful ideas and almost renegade in its purposeful design to distance and frustrate the viewer – testing, sort of like the Milgram experiment itself, how far we’re prepared to go along with it. Continue reading

JANIS: LITTLE GIRL BLUE

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Directed by Amy J. Berg. Narrated by Cat Power. Featuring Janis Joplin, Bob Weir, Sam Andrew, Dick Cavett, Peter Albin, Clive Davis, Dave Niehaus, David Dalton and Kris Kristofferson.

Heavy on rock-blues sentiment and skinflint nearly everywhere else, Amy J. Berg’s account of the great white blues singer-songwriter has nothing if not sympathy for its title subject. Leading with her mile-wide smile and childlike features, the face of Janis Joplin seemed at once too young and too old for sixties show business; so it only makes sense that the rest of her would appear just as contradictory.

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